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Ludmilla Tueting: ‘My Heart Is Nepali’
Ludmila Tooting is a strong, well-read, free-spirited and bespectacled Teutonic woman who does not hide the fact that she lives in the Berlin Hinterhof (backyard) in Kreuzberg (West Berlin) and longs to see the horizon, especially with pagoda silhouettes. in the distance It almost sounds like Berlin is a city with a lost horizon.
It ranges between Kathmandu and Berlin, and is very active in the field of ‘sanfte’ (soft)-tourism, meaning tourism with insight. She spent her 50th birthday on May 27, 1996 with her Nepalese friends at Thangpocha Monastery. She is concerned about the negative aspects of tourism and writes the information service ‘Mishmar Turir’. For potential tourists in the German-speaking world, she is an expert on Nepal, who cares about the cultural and natural heritage of Nepal, as can be seen in her travel books.
I met her at the Volkerkunde Museum in Freiburg, the metropolis of the southwestern Black Forest, and the event was one of a series of talks held under the auspices of Contemporary Painting from Nepal to promote cultural and religious development in Nepal.
Ludmila Tooting spoke about the ‘fascination of Nepal, the sunny and shady side’ and belted out slides and information and described Nepal as a wonderful country.
And the second topic was: ‘Tourism with insight is not wanted: the ecological damage through tourism in Nepal’ which was more or less what the interested Nepal fan will find in ‘Bikas-Binas’, a thought-provoking book on the ecological aspects of Nepal, especially the environmental pollution in the Himalayas, published on By Ms. Tüting and fellow college members Kunda Dixit, a renowned Nepali journalist, who has been the director of International Press Service for decades and also the editor and publisher of The Nepali. times.
Ms. Tooting’s lecture, delivered in what the Germans usually call the Berlin language (Berlinerschnause), has a pedagogical and practical value, and she tried not only to show what a foreign tourist does wrong in Nepal, but also suggested how a tourist should behave and dress in Nepal. All in all, It sounds like the German etiquette book called ‘Knigge’ for potential travelers to Nepal.
In the past there were a great many slide presentations and lectures sponsored by the Badische Zeitung, Freiburger University and Volkshochschule with jet-set gurus, Rinpoches, meditations, ‘box and boxis’ experts, shamanism, Tibetan. Lamaism, tai-chi, taoism, yin-oriented zen and what-have-you. It is a fact that every Hans-Rudy-Fritz who has been to Nepal or the Himalayas walks around as an expert on matters related to the House of Snows.
Some bother to do some background research and some don’t, and the result is a series of whiners. Like the guy who wrote a thesis on traditions in Nepal and held a slide show in the maximum auditorium of the university’s eye clinic. The pictures of the Nepalese countryside were, as usual, breathtaking. Pokhara, Kathmandu, Jomsom, Khumbu region and then a slide of Bhimsen’s page was shown and our expert tweeted, ‘This is the only mosque in Nepal’.
Or the time when a doctor from the Swabian delegation from Stuttgart held a Vortrag (conversation) in the Audi-Max (Max Auditorium) of the university. A colorful slide of a large group of Nepali porters flashed on the screen. The porters were shown watching the members of the Alpine expedition eat their sumptuous dinner, with every European dish imaginable, and the comment was: ‘The Nepalese are used to eating once a day, so they just looked at us while we ate’ (sic). A decent German sitting next to me by the name of Dr. Petersen, who was a professor of microbiology, remarked, “Sulcha gashmaklosigkeit!” (lack of taste or delicacy), but this did not seem to bother our Swabian Himalayan hero. Most Nepalese eat two large meals: lunch and dinner, With quite a few snacks thrown in. And when you visit a Nepali home you are also offered hot tea and snacks, depending on the wealth and status of the family.
Every time I heard such unkind and thoughtless comments I sighed and my blood pressure would rise and my EKG registered tachycardia and I must have developed ulcers. Oh, my lining. The remedy would be to avoid such stressful situations in the form of presentations, but I couldn’t. I had to say to myself: cook, old boy, the view is beautiful. and this. If it weren’t for the incredible beauty of rural Nepal and the art and cultural treasures of the Kathmandu Valley… one would simply have to use earplugs (Oxofex) and revel in the magnificent scenery of Nepal: its uniqueness, its ever-smiling people with what the British call, a stiff upper lip, and what the Germans call ‘sich nie runter kriegen lassen’, despite the decade-long war between government soldiers and the Maoists in the past.
Another time a European couple came to my apartment with a thick album full of photos of images of gods and goddesses and the ‘experts’ wanted me to identify what, and where, they had photographed in Nepal, so that it was supposed to be. Published as a picture book about the temples of Nepal. Some experts, I thought. The pair look like the junkies on Freak Street in the early seventies. Like the legendary Nepalese, one helped where possible, although I had to shake my head after they left.
Ludmila has been going to Nepal since 1974. However, when you remind her of her “globe-trotter” image in those days, she likes to forget everything, because she must have made some mistakes and learned from her past mistakes. And now ecology seems to be her passion. She wants to “feel” the potential tourists through the slide shows, her TV appearances and draw attention to the Nepalese etiquette rules to feel at home in Nepal, despite the culture shock and change.
‘Tourists are terrorists’ flashes on the screen, and Ludmila explains that she photographed graffiti on the Berlin Wall in Kreuzberg. Every time a tourist visits another country, he gets a culture shock: the language barrier, the question of mentality, alien customs, and as a result, they return to their countries loaded with many prejudices. Then she shows a busload of tourists walking around on the Hanuman Duka Palace. She says that some of the tourists got angry with her when she photographed them. It seems that the tourists reserve the right to photograph any country and its people as something normal, without bothering to ask them for permission. “Wir haben schon bezalt!” is their line of argument. Doesn’t it reek of cultural imperialism, after the motto: I paid in dollars, marks, francs, etc. for the trip, so you natives have to commit and take pictures for me. The point is that the tourists paid their travel agencies in Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart or Kathmandu, not the people and objects they photograph. The payment allows you to land in the country, but how you behave in a foreign country is another matter.
“Today you can go around the world in 18 days,” she says, “and everywhere there are people who are in a hurry all the time. She talks about the Earth’s globes going around on their own, and writing books with secret insider advice on how to get the most out of the country with the least amount of money. Poor suffering with A mountain of cargo including cooking utensils appears and this leads Ludmila to talk about a certain expedition leader’s successful climb to the top of a Himalayan peak, ‘We had no losses.’ the german
“Funeral fires in Pashupatinath are an eternal topic for tourists,” Ludmila says with a groan, describing tourists with video cameras in the ghats. ‘You wouldn’t want a foreign visitor conducting the funeral of your nearest and dearest, would you?’ Ludmila asks.
It was interesting to know that there is a makeshift video shack in Tatupani along the Jomsom trail for the benefit of local Nepalis, trekkers and their porters. ‘I saw ‘Gandhi’ on this trek’ she said, by which she meant Sir Attenborough’s film. You might even get to watch the latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies up there. Pico Air’s “Video Night in Kathmandu” may still be interesting reading for the Nepalophile because he has “a knack for recording every day”. A poster advertising ‘fascinating animal sacrifices in Dakshinkali’, apparently from Bikas-Binas (Development-Destruction) has raised questions about the so-called box office cocktails of the ‘thrilling, romantic, exciting, action-packed’ produced in Bollywood’s celluloid, DVD factories.
‘If you want to meet people and get to know them, you have to drive slowly’ says Ludmila Tooting. Then she talks about the wonders of the Polaroid camera in the Nepalese customs office. Men are controlled by toys. She says, ‘If you take a photo of a customs officer and give him the photo, you will pass the checkpoint without difficulty.’
Does tourism mean foreign exchange for Nepal? Probably not, she said, with food imported from Australia, lighting from Holland, whiskey from Scotland, air conditioning from Canada. She shows Pokhara in 1974. Corrugated sheets are carried on the backs of porters along the Jomsom trail to build small mountain restaurants.
A Gurung woman in her traditional dress, frying delicious circular sal-rotis in her open-air tea shop, appears and good old Ludmila advises the audience on the benefits of acquiring or boosting immunity with gamma-globulin and the benefits of tetanus shots before a trip to the Himalayas.
After the show I went with Ludmila to a Freiburger tavern called Zum Störchen to drink and chat. Tony Hagan, a geologist-turned-development worker from Lanzarote, holds a dual Ph.D. And he was obliged to talk about the development of Nepal from 1950 to 1987 and the role of developmental cooperation, he also accompanied us. Tony Hagan was a celebrity in Nepal for his pioneering geological work and publication. Alas, Hagen died sometime after starring in an autobiographical film. Ingrid Kreida, who hastened back to Cologne, gave a lecture on the history of the Thanka painters and the freedom of art in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, and expressed her deep concern about the theft of Nepalese temple and ritual objects.
Ludmila is a name to be reckoned with as a globetrotter, journalist, expert on Nepal in the German-speaking world, and a critic of the alternative travel scene. And she still fights for the rights of the underdog in South Asia. She was in favor of the Chipko movement in India and denounced deforestation, ecological damage, fought for the human rights of both Tibetans and Nepalese, wrote about the development and destruction of the so-called third world countries. She once told Edith Kersta, the travel editor of the Tageszeitung (TAZ, Berlin): “My heart is Nepalese, the rest is German.” Her base camp in Kathmandu is the Vajra Hotel run by Sabine Lehmann, a hotel with a theatrical flair, and she is working on a climbing novel this time. She wants to emulate the characters of James Hilton’s novel The Lost Horizon, where people grow very old and are not bothered by gerontological problems. She wants to live at least 108 years on this planet. One can only admire and wish her success in her work and pedagogical criticism.
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